My Blind Hen Hildy – Going home to roost March 8, 2013

One of our biggest worries relating to Hildy our blind hen was that, while she had learned to leave the coop, she hadn’t learned how to go back in. This made a certain amount of sense, given her disability. After all, when leaving the coop in the morning, she was going toward a bright patch that opened into an even brighter area: the outside. But to go back in, there was no bright patch: just darkness. Our blind hen would have had to go from an area where she could see a little bit, into an area where it was dark and much more difficult to perceive her surroundings.

She just never learned to do it.

Hildy the blind hen

Our blind hen: her left eye looked normal–except that it didn’t dilate–but her right was gone.

For her entire life, we would have to carry her in at night. She was sweet and affectionate with people–speckled sussex chickens often are–and there was a certain charm to the chore, mind you. Guests would often ask if they could carry our blind hen in for us: she was friendly to a fault. Sometimes Hildy would come to “knock” on the door when she was ready to go inside: tap tap tap went her beak. Scratch scratch went her feet. But it was also frustrating, in a way. If she could recognize our big (dark) door as a door, why couldn’t she recognize the dark open coop pophole, which moreover she went through every day? But maybe it was just that she understood in a vague way that when we appeared in her world,we magically emerged from the porch area.

On days she didn’t knock, she’d settle down in a little spot on a stone wall near the coop and wait for us. If we went out early, our Salmon Faverolles rooster Gautier would still be outside standing guard over her; he didn’t retire until the last possible minute if one of his girls was still outside. If we went out later, he would be inside… but standing at the door, waiting.

Our rooster, Gautier: a Salmon Faverolles

Gautier was always a gentleman with the ladies, and gentle with people as well

Either way, every night, one of us would go out, scoop up our blind hen and stroke her feathers before carrying her into the coop. She’d snuggle her head down and close her eyes to be petted. She loved having her wattles stroked, and she loved gentle scratches beneath her wings. Then we’d set her inside the coop  and lock up, so everyone was safe.

There was one problem with her outside time, though: while the rest of our flock could forage while they were outside, our blind hen couldn’t see to forage. She knew how to eat from the feeder in the coop, but once she started coming outside in the mornings, that would mean she’d have to go without eating and drinking the whole day! Next week, I’ll talk about how we dealt with that problem.

Do you have any extra friendly hens (or roosters)?  Please tell us about them in the comments!



laurie warner March 8th, 2013

How about a light inside the coop on a timer…..set it to go off after dark and stay on for 20min……for a few weeks call her to the light and give all the hens a treat…..
good luck and keep us posted

Lissa March 8th, 2013

Laurie, we did try the light to no avail. A few people on FB mentioned trying a radio inside, which we never thought of. I wonder if that would have worked?

Marti Schmidt March 8th, 2013

We also have Speckled Sussex chickens along with Salmon Faverolles, and our only rooster is a Salmon Faverolles. The two breeds mixed created the most incredible baby girl chicks (now six months old). I wonder do you have any Speckled/Faverolles too? All three types of hens are docile and gentle, and the Faverolles rooster is a glutton for love and being handled.

Lissa March 8th, 2013

Yes, Marti, we do! Actually, I gave a bunch of those crosses to a friend of mine, and they are his favorites. He calls them “the Marcies.” Ours all hatched out to be mostly brown, with a few speckles, and also with beards, the extra toe and feathered legs. It was a good combo from our perspective. 🙂

George Castonguay March 8th, 2013

My EE rooster is about the friendliest one of my feathery bunch. He likes to hop up on my knee when I’m sitting on a milk crate to feed the kids treats and eat from my hand. I am allowed a few pats but mustn’t get carried away with it. Once he flew up to stand on my shoulder while I was standing, I felt most piratical.

Kim March 8th, 2013

I had a sweet rooster that would hop on my lap to be petted. His name was Deanie. He, sadly, died of END last fall, as did several of my other chickens. I love reading about Hildy! Keep us posted!

Earth Goddess March 8th, 2013

I have a rooster, named Frankie….which I’m sure is short for Frankenstein….I adopted him along with about 25 hens. I’m not sure of Frankies pedigree. He is all waddle from head to shoulders. My other roosters did not like him. The first day… they beat him up and sliced him open behind his neck. I used “Breathe Right” strips to butterfly suiture him. He healed perfectly! We tried him 2 more times outside with the others…they beat him up…he couldn’t see out of his right eye and I’d find him under my neighbor’s deck…roosting at dusk. So then I tried putting him in my fenced back yard….close to the house…This works. The other roosters leave him alone there….At dusk he comes to sit and wait on the windowbox in the breezeway…. When I open the kitchen door….he comes in the house and I take him to the basement to roost for the night….and in the morning we put back out in the backyard. ….Frankie is very sweet….and is used to being in the house with my Collie. my cat, and myself. He lived inside with us for a month in January….convalescing from his injuries. To make him feel confortable…I put a fake chicken with feathers on the floor with him….he would sit next to her…I called her “Manik-hen”. But I had to find a long-term solution at some point as he kept picking and pulling at his diaper…wouldn’t stay adjusted and the poop came rolling out. Also, I was sleep deprived….as he wanted to roost…close to me….started crowing at 4am unless I kept him up late….like you would a baby…so he would sleep in….you see the problem….Anyway, all is fine now….and we do put separate food and water out in the backyard…He also has both in the basement…..Hildy should be able to smell food as they have a very keen sense of smell….I guess as animal owners….we do what we have to. 🙂

Lissa March 9th, 2013

Glad to hear Frankie is doing okay, now! Not sure how you went about introducing him to your other birds, but it can often be a problem so we do have advice about that right here. (You may well have taken time and made introductions gradually, but just for the reference of others who may be reading through these comments, that link may be helpful!) I also wrote a blog post about keeping multiple roosters together, and that may help, too.

Kim March 8th, 2013

I like the idea of a radio helping Hildy find the coop. And chickens like music. They seem to lay more when they have a radio in their coop.

Kim March 8th, 2013

Smart! Maybe it’d work.

Kim March 9th, 2013

Good ol’ Hildy!

Kim March 11th, 2013

Lissa,I was wondering, what do Speckled Sussex chicks look like? Because I am trying to hatch a lot of different chicks and only one is a Sussex, so I want to know if it is one of the ones that hatch.

Lissa March 12th, 2013

They’re very cute (but aren’t they all?). They’re brown with chipmunk sort of stripes down their backs, and often a lighter, buffy-colored breast. Single combs, clean white/pink legs, four toes, red earlobes. You can see photos on our website on the Speckled Sussex page.

Kim March 15th, 2013

Thanks! 😀

Veer67 July 4th, 2013

I used to have a Red Star named Sugar who on her first year had her toes bitten off by a raccoon. After we nursed her back to health, she had trouble getting back in the pecking order and ended up last. And after the day we let her back in the flock she started laying an egg everyday, Sugar also came when called running towards us with her unsteady gait. This year though a fox came to our yard and took 2 of our hens including Sugar.

Lissa July 5th, 2013

Oh, I’m so sorry! It’s hard to lose any.

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